5 Tips for Dealing with Difficult People

People I Like framed print (grey/pink)

People I Like framed print (grey/pink) (Photo credit: id-iom)

While a popular workshop I give called “Dealing with Difficult People” includes descriptions of typical difficult behavioral types, the thrust of the workshop serves to help participants discover their own hot buttons.

Participants are often surprised to discover the workshop focus isn’t on “Me good – coworker, family member, partner – bad.” True, some people are just plain difficult. They seem to be hard to get along with no matter what is going on. Some people even have a kind of radar for whose buttons they can push. Yet, have you ever noticed how someone at work might be really annoying to you but doesn’t affect your colleague? One or two things might be happening. Your buttons got pushed and your colleague’s didn’t. Or your colleague has learned how to deal with it. What are your hot buttons? How do you react when they are pressed?

Here are 5 Tips to help you see trouble coming and strategies to deal with it.

1. CHECK YOUR REACTIONS. When someone’s behavior bothers you, often times they serve as your mirror. Might you possess this behavior but don’t want to look at it? Or maybe that person’s behavior reminds you of some other difficult person in your life. This is a good place to begin understanding your reactions. Start paying attention to what “plugs” you in.

2. COMMUNICATE WITH TACT. That being said, some behaviors are simply difficult. Communicate your concerns in a nonthreatening way. Difficult people often don’t know they are being difficult.

3. DON’T PERSONALIZE THE BEHAVIOR. Sometimes you think the difficult person is your personal tormentor. Don’t think that way. We all have our “stuff.”

4. REINFORCE POSITIVE BEHAVIOR. “Catch” your difficult person doing something right and give them positive feedback. It is probably something they rarely hear.

5. DON’T FIGHT LOSING BATTLES. Is someone perpetually negative? Don’t try to change their mind. Make optimistic but realistic statements about past successes. Also, notice if they actually bring an element of balance to discussions.